There is a view shared by too many people, I think, that white wine is merely for foreplay. You can tickle palates with a pale beverage as an aperitif or with the appetizer course, but eventually people expect a climax, and when it comes to wine, the colour of orgasm is red.
I suspect the bias, for some people at least, is rooted in a myth. Red wines has a certain gravitas about it, while the stuff stored in the fridge next to the Coke and Sunny Delight is seen as refreshment. True connoisseurs know that's not the case. I recall having an enthusiastic exchange a while ago with Gary Vaynerchuk, the New Jersey wine-store manager who became an Internet sensation thanks to his irreverent and engaging online videos. "The more you drink wine," he said, "the more you drink white."
Not all connoisseurs feel that way, of course. Some would rather glug red all the time, even with shrimp. But he was getting at a point. White wine can rock - it just tends to play in a lower decibel range, so you've got to listen with both ears. German and Alsatian rieslings and gewürztraminers can be awesomely complex. They need not be warm-up acts for cabernet sauvignon. Ditto white Burgundies, virtually all of which are made from chardonnay. And they pair more gracefully with a lot of the lighter food that many people favour today.
Insisting on cabernet, syrah or merlot with every meal is like asking where the beef is. Good wine, like a good main course, doesn't always have to be red.
Hugel & Fils Pinot Gris Tradition Hugel 2007 (France)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $22.95
Big pear and stone-fruit flavours ooze from this luscious Alsatian, complemented by hints of mushroom and mineral. It would be a fine partner for freshwater fish.
Domaine Latour-Giraud Les Narvaux Meursault 2008 (France)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $44.95
Medium full-bodied and well-balanced, this white Burgundy offers up layers of pineapple, citrus and nuts freshened up by lively acidity. Roast chicken would be splendid.
Faller Geisberg Riesling 2007 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $20.95
A grand cru Alsatian at a reasonable price, it's medium-bodied, built around a core of stone fruit, with nuances of mineral, honey and petrol. There's a solid backbone of crisp acidity here that would make it a fine partner for host of seafood dishes, including crab cakes.
Heimberger Les Origines Vieilles Vignes Gewürztraminer 2009 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $17.95
I love the fleshy, slightly syrupy texture of this off-dry gewürz from Alsace, which carries flavours of lychee, melon and a touch of ginger. It would match nicely with spicy Asian fare.
Domaine Roux Père & Fils Montagny 2009 (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $18.95
A premier cru Burgundy, this chardonnay is medium-bodied, with hints of biter lemon rind and spicy oak. It's another good match for roast chicken.
Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $24.95
On the pricey side for a New Zealand sauvignon blanc but worth the money. Silky in the middle, with flavours of gooseberry and passion fruit, it slowly builds to a grassy climax - tantric Kiwi. Try it with spring asparagus topped with crumbled goat cheese.
Hinterbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Niagara)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19
Natalie Spytkowsky, winemaker at Hinterbrook, one of Niagara's newest premium estates, has crafted a winner here. Smooth and slightly creamy, it's ripe and elegantly balanced, with a gooseberry taking centre stage and fresh acidity on the finish. Shellfish, such as grilled scallops, would do it proud. Available direct from the winery at www.hinterbrook.com.
Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2009 (Austria)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $15.95
Made from organic grapes, here's a versatile white at just 11.5-per-cent alcohol, yet it shows good weight and an oily texture, hinting at honey and flowers. It would make a fine accompaniment to soft cheeses or schnitzel.
Equifera Chardonnay 2008 (Niagara)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $14.95
Subtly oaked, with nuances of apple and citrus, this mid-weight chardonnay is crisp, clean and ready for a host of foods, from fish to chicken to pork.
Mud House Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $17.95
Just to fend off accusations of bias, here's a curveball red for you, one that really could be a white in disguise. A bargain from New Zealand's Central Otago region, it's medium-bodied, with intense cherry-like flavour, a solid backbone of acidity and satisfying complexity in the form of sweet herbs and spice. Pair it with pork chops or duck breast - or beef if you must.